How do you mark a milestone birthday? Other than getting your first piece of mail from AARP?

For James’s 50th, we toyed around with a few possibilities. New York? Maybe San Francisco? Then we discovered that one of our favorite comedians was performing in Vegas the Friday after James’s birthday. So Vegas it was.

In August.

Our last time there was for an architecture conference in Summer 2019. (I know the rates are probably cheap(er), but honestly?) But post-pandemic we weren’t sure what to expect. Would the casinos be as busy? Would a lot of the restaurants we had enjoyed be closed? And most importantly, did Fat Elvis on a Hoveround make it through? However, walking into the Bellagio lobby, I think we had the same realization:

Nothing about Vegas has changed. Not a thing.

We should have been a little more clued in thanks to the bachelor/bachelorette party of 14 that showed up at our gate in Dallas. Or when the mom on the flight announced to everyone they were off to celebrate her child’s 21st birthday. Because doesn’t a hammered wedding party and drunk 21-year-old just scream Vegas?

Yet somehow, we were still surprised. Especially the morning the elevator doors opened to what looked line an entire tour bus crammed into the elevator lobby, jockeying to get to their rooms. Apparently everyone decided to check in at the same time that morning, making our opting to fly in Friday seem like a shrewd move.

But it didn’t take long to go from surprised guests to Vegas tourists. We played our usual game of wandering from casino to casino, hitting the slots at each one. We ate too much and at odd hours. We even hopped on the monorail and ventured to the Sahara on the north end of the Strip – a definite first for us.

We also did a large amount of people watching, something that hasn’t changed since the last time either. All sorts of people in all sorts of clothing (or lack of) just having a fun time at pretty much any time of day.

Now some people will tell you to just stay home and flush your money down the toilet, but neither of us thinks that would be as much fun. And if the Bellagio had a good lobby bar, we could have spent all three days there just sipping drinks and watching the world go by.

Except for Fat Elvis. In the two days we spent wandering up and down the Strip, we never saw Fat Elvis or his Hoveround.

So maybe some things in Vegas have changed after all.